What I Gain from Ashoka and Rotary, and How We Can Work Together

Siblings placed in separate foster care settings reunite at Camp To Belong

By Lynn Price, Ashoka Fellow and member of the Rotary Club of Denver Southeast

Growing up in foster care, I held the label of foster kid destined to failure. To make matters worse, my older sister and I lived in different homes. Brothers and sisters fight, argue, and tease. Yet, they are the first to come to each other’s defense and celebrate typical childhood events and milestones in life.  Sometimes taken for granted, they are also oftentimes the longest relationships in life with a shared legacy. The sibling bond ensures familial history and an undeniable commitment to unconditional love and acceptance. 

After I realized that most of the 400,000 youth in foster care had the odds stacked against them for adult success and also were separated from at least one sibling when placed in foster care, I was motivated to ensure that youth do not allow foster care to define them and to ensure youth in foster care did not miss out on typical childhood events and milestones in life, including building relationships and memories with their siblings. 

I founded Camp To Belong in 1995 to reunite siblings placed in separate foster homes and to give youth in foster care a voice to express their views towards and needs in anticipation of adulthood. 

Along my professional journey, in 2005, I was honored as an Ashoka Fellow and gained the privilege of networking with other social entrepreneurs who were taking on their societies’ greatest challenges.  In my case, the societal challenge I saw was a foster care system that did not prioritize the connection between siblings as a conduit to familial history, stability, trust, and safety. The solution and system change I have worked toward with others through Camp To Belong is creating and scaling programs to ensure sibling visitation, if not placement of brothers and sisters together, as a mandatory requirement of child welfare systems. 

Currently, Camp To Belong has reunited more than 15,000 siblings in the US and Australia at summer camps and year-round events. Camp To Belong also trains foster parents and child welfare care-providing teams to understand why siblings matter. Finally, Camp To Belong has advocated for US state and national siblings’ rights legislation, including designating a Sibling Connection Day, passing a Sibling Bill of Rights to support sibling relationships in care and post-adoption, and multiple subsequent state-level Sibling Bill of Rights to protect the sibling bond.

Siblings placed in separate foster care settings reunite over a rock climbing activity together at Camp To Belong

I joined Rotary in 2021 because I saw it as an opportunity to engage others to help advance positive changes for youth in foster care at the global level.  It also gave me the opportunity to support other local humanitarian causes as a volunteer in my own community. Coming out of the isolation of the pandemic, Rotary provided me with the continuity of connection and the opportunity to be part of a unified voice at weekly gatherings and events. Rotary has allowed me to spotlight other organizations that are making a difference, boosting awareness and support for their work. 

At Ashoka and Rotary, we are all people of action, changemakers for a better world. I have a similar feeling among Ashoka Fellows as I do among Rotary members because both networks offer sincerity, acceptance without judgment, humility, and kindness. I encourage Rotarians and Rotaractors to look to Ashoka to help scale local acts of humanitarian service to a global level with a social entrepreneur mindset: defining a societal challenge with clarity, addressing the challenge directly, devising systems-wide changes such as new policies, advocacy plans to advance them, and commitments to government actions that prevent the challenge from occurring in the first place. I encourage Ashoka’s community to connect with the local Rotary community, as knowledgeable about community challenges, catalysts for local change, and volunteers eager to understand and serve alongside you toward your vision of a greater humanitarian impact.

At some point, I reflected on a choice to be a victim or a victor – to be bitter or make life better.  I chose the latter and, against all odds, did not become a failure. I graduated from a top-ten university, have a meaningful career, celebrate financial independence, and embrace my children and grandchildren often.  Additionally, I am happy to call my sister one of my very best friends, and that took some time as we aged out of foster care because of the disconnect we had during that journey.

It could be said that we are brothers and sisters as Ashoka Fellows and Rotary members. We are learning about each other and building our relationship through working together for positive change. We come together with compassion and an undeniable commitment to local and global solutions for a better world.

Rotary’s partnership with Ashoka brings together the vision of Ashoka’s social entrepreneurs with the local expertise of Rotary members to inspire innovation that can solve problems, create leaders, and change societies. Learn more about the Rotary-Ashoka partnership.

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